ASHLAND, Ohio - A turnover-plagued third quarter undermined the upset bid of the Bellarmine University women's basketball team as the Knights fell 75-57 Friday to fifth-ranked Drury in the Midwest Region quarterfinals of the DII NCAA Tournament.
Competing at regional host Ashland, seventh-seeded Bellarmine (22-8) hung tight with second-seeded Drury (29-3) in the first half and trailed 36-30 at the break. Unfortunately, the Panthers were able to pull away in the third period after the Knights committed 11 turnovers in the frame.
"I love each one of them," Bellarmine Coach Chancellor Dugan said of her squad. "There's only one team in the country that's truly going to be happy at the end of the season."
Junior guard Raven Merriweather registered game highs of 18 points and eight rebounds for the Knights, while senior forward Sarah Galvin chipped in 15 points and three steals. Junior forward Beth Bowers added eight points.
Paige Wilson sank four 3-pointers in pacing Drury with 16 points. Daejah Bernard had 14 and Heather Harman contributed 10. Steals are where the Panthers truly made their mark - Hailey Diestelkamp racked up six of the 17 and Bernard had five.
Shooting-wise, Bellarmine was in range of Drury, as the Panthers shot 45.8 percent and the Knights shot 42 percent. Turnovers are what burned Bellarmine. The Knights finished with 27 - 10 more than the Panthers - and Drury capitalized by having a 28-13 advantage in points off turnovers.
In its previous two games with Drury, both losses, Bellarmine faced steep halftime deficits. However, the Knights opened the NCAA Tournament with a strong half. Merriweather started the game with a 3-pointer and Galvin spotted her for a layup for a quick 7-2 lead. Bellarmine maintained the advantage for most of the period before Drury edged ahead 19-17.
A 3-pointer by Bowers gave Bellarmine the lead a little over four minutes into the second quarter. Drury made a late push to own a 36-30 advantage at the intermission. At that point, the Knights had an 8-7 advantage in points off turnovers.
Everything changed in the third quarter. Bellarmine struggled mightily to maintain possession and get off shots. The turnovers mounted and Drury capitalized on them to build an 11-point lead midway through the period and 15 by the end of it. The defining stat of the contest was the Panthers' 13-0 dominance in points off turnovers in the third stanza.
"We just had way too many turnovers," Dugan said. "The first half was everything we wanted to see from the team. But then the turnovers really got to us."
Drury's lead never dipped below 12 in the fourth quarter. Bellarmine was outscored 19-17 in the first quarter, 17-13 in the second and 21-18 in the fourth, but the 18-9 deficit in the third made all the difference.